ANTSOHIHY, Madagascar, April 6 (UPI) -- Eighteen ducklings of the world's most endangered duck species have hatched in Madagascar, bringing the world population of the ducks to just 60, officials say.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, two British groups leading a captive breeding program in Madagascar, say the hatching of 18 Madagascan pochards "builds hope that the bird can be saved from extinction."
The ducks were thought to have become extinct in the late 1990s, but were rediscovered in 2006 when conservationists discovered 22 birds at a single site at a lake in northern Madagascar, the BBC reported.
Durrell and the WWT launched a mission to rescue the critically endangered birds in 2009, building a captive breeding center in Antsohihy, Madagascar.
Conservationists collected 24 eggs from nests at the side of the lake and placed them in incubators, successfully hatching 18 of the ducklings.
"The ducklings represent an incredible step forward in the fight to save the pochard from extinction," said Durrel conservation biologist Glyn Young, who has spent years studying the Madagascar pochard.
"The arrival of these ducklings has led to real hope that the birds can one day flourish again."